Indian National Congress
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The Indian National Congress (often called the Congress Party or simply Congress, abbr. INC) is one of the two major political parties in India, along with its main rival the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Congress is a "big tent" party whose platform is generally considered in the centre in its ideological orientation, of Indian politics. On social issues, it advocates secular policies that encourage equal opportunity, right to health, civil liberty and welfare of weaker sections and minorities, with support for a mixed economy. As of 2021, in the 17 general elections since independence, it has won an outright majority on seven occasions and has led the ruling coalition a further three times, heading the central government for more than 54 years. There have been six Congress Prime Ministers, the first being Jawaharlal Nehru (1947–1964), and the most recent Manmohan Singh (2004–2014).
Founded on December 28, 1885 in Bombay, Congress was an assembly for politically-minded individuals who were interested in reforms. In its first twenty years, known as a 'moderate phase', Congress was not interested in campaigning for independence or self-rule but for greater political autonomy within British Raj. From the late 19th century, and especially after 1920, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Congress became more vocal and active in demanding substantial political reform, and eventually turned out to be the principal leader of the Indian independence movement. Congress led India to independence from the United Kingdom, and powerfully influenced other anti-colonial nationalist movements in the British Empire.[a] It was the first modern nationalist movement to emerge in the British Empire in Asia and Africa.[b]
A split occurred within the Congress party in 1969. Indira Gandhi in order to demonstrate her support amongst the people, created her own faction, the Congress (R); while the other group was the Congress (O). In the 1971 general election, Congress (R) had secured an overwhelming majority winning 352 out of 518 seats in the Lok Sabha. In the elections to five state assemblies too, the Congress (R) performed well. However, 1977 general election resulted in a heavy defeat for the Congress (R). Indira Gandhi left the Congress (R) in 1978, to form her own Congress (I) faction which eventually was declared the rightful Indian National Congress by the Indian election commission in 1981.
The Congress party won the 2004 general elections and returned to power after a record eight years out of office. The Congress-led coalition known as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh formed a government. Subsequently, the UPA again formed the government after winning 2009 general elections with strong result in Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. Singh became the first Prime Minister since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962 to be re-elected after completing a full five-year term. However, in the 2014 general election, UPA suffered heavy defeat winning only 55 seats of the 543-member Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Parliament of India). As of June 2021[update], the party with its alliances is in power in six legislative assemblies.
A total of 61 people have served as the president of the INC since its formation. Sonia Gandhi is the longest serving president of the party, having held the office for over twenty years from 1998 to 2017 and since 2019. The district party is the smallest functional unit of the Congress. There is also a Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC), present at the state-level in every state. Together, the delegates from the districts and PCCs form the All India Congress Committee (AICC). The party is also organized into several committees, and sections.
The Indian National Congress conducted its first session in Bombay from 28 to 31 December 1885 at the initiative of retired Civil Service officer Allan Octavian Hume. In 1883, Hume had outlined his idea for a body representing Indian interests in an open letter to graduates of the University of Calcutta. Its aim was to obtain a greater share in government for educated Indians, and to create a platform for civic and political dialogue between them and the British Raj. Hume took the initiative, and in March 1885 a notice convening the first meeting of the Indian National Union to be held in Poona the following December was issued. Due to a cholera outbreak there, it was moved to Bombay.
Hume organised the first meeting in Bombay with the approval of the Viceroy Lord Dufferin. Umesh Chandra Banerjee was the first president of Congress; the first session was attended by 72 delegates, representing each province of India. Notable representatives included Scottish ICS officer William Wedderburn, Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta of the Bombay Presidency Association, Ganesh Vasudeo Joshi of the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, social reformer and newspaper editor Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, Justice K. T. Telang, N. G. Chandavarkar, Dinshaw Wacha, Behramji Malabari, journalist and activist Gooty Kesava Pillai, and P. Rangaiah Naidu of the Madras Mahajana Sabha. This small elite group, unrepresentative of the Indian masses at the time, functioned more as a stage for elite Indian ambitions than a political party for the first decade of its existence.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Congress' demands became more radical in the face of constant opposition from the British government, and the party decided to advocate in favour of the independence movement because it would allow a new political system in which Congress could be a major party. By 1905, a division opened between the moderates led by Gokhale, who downplayed public agitation, and the new extremists who advocated agitation, and regarded the pursuit of social reform as a distraction from nationalism. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who tried to mobilise Hindu Indians by appealing to an explicitly Hindu political identity displayed in the annual public Ganapati festivals he inaugurated in western India, was prominent among the extremists.
Congress included a number of prominent political figures. Dadabhai Naoroji, a member of the sister Indian National Association, was elected president of the party in 1886 and was the first Indian Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons (1892–1895). Congress also included Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Jinnah was a member of the moderate group in the Congress, favouring Hindu–Muslim unity in achieving self-government. Later he became the leader of the Muslim League and instrumental in the creation of Pakistan. Congress was transformed into a mass movement by Surendranath Banerjee during the partition of Bengal in 1905, and the resultant Swadeshi movement.
Congress as a mass movement
Mahatma Gandhi returned from South Africa in 1915. After the First World War, the party became associated with Gandhi, who remained its unofficial spiritual leader and icon. He formed an alliance with the Khilafat Movement in 1920 to fight for preservation of the Ottoman Caliphate, and rights for Indians using civil disobedience or satyagraha as the tool for agitation. In 1923, after the deaths of policemen at Chauri Chaura, Gandhi suspended the agitation. In protest, a number of leaders, Chittaranjan Das, Annie Besant, and Motilal Nehru, resigned to set up the Swaraj Party. The Khilafat movement collapsed and Congress was split.
With the help of the moderate group led by Gokhale, in 1924 Gandhi became president of Congress. The rise of Gandhi's popularity and his satyagraha art of revolution led to support from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Khan Mohammad Abbas Khan, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Chakravarti Rajgopalachari, Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Jayaprakash Narayan, Jivatram Kripalani, and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. As a result of prevailing nationalism, Gandhi's popularity, and the party's attempts at eradicating caste differences, untouchability, poverty, and religious and ethnic divisions, Congress became a forceful and dominant group. Although its members were predominantly Hindu, it had members from other religions, economic classes, and ethnic and linguistic groups.
At the Congress 1929 Lahore session under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru, Purna Swaraj (complete independence) was declared as the party's goal, declaring 26 January 1930 as "Purna Swaraj Diwas" (Independence Day). The same year, Srinivas Iyenger was expelled from the party for demanding full independence, not just home rule as demanded by Gandhi.
After the passage of the Government of India Act 1935, provincial elections were held in India in the winter of 1936–37 in eleven provinces: Madras, Central Provinces, Bihar, Orissa, United Provinces, Bombay Presidency, Assam, NWFP, Bengal, Punjab, and Sindh. The final results of the elections were declared in February 1937. The Indian National Congress gained power in eight of them - the three exceptions being Bengal, Punjab, and Sindh. The All-India Muslim League failed to form a government in any province. Congress ministries resigned in October and November 1939 in protest against Viceroy Lord Linlithgow's declaration that India was a belligerent in the Second World War without consulting the Indian people.
In 1939, Subhas Chandra Bose, the elected president in both 1938 and 1939, resigned from Congress over the selection of the working committee.  Congress was an umbrella organisation, sheltering radical socialists, traditionalists, and Hindu and Muslim conservatives. Gandhi expelled all the socialist groupings, including the Congress Socialist Party, the Krishak Praja Party, and the Swarajya Party, along with Subhas Chandra Bose, in 1939.
In 1946, the British tried the Indian soldiers who had fought alongside the Japanese during World War II in the INA trials. In response, Congress helped form the INA Defence Committee, which assembled a legal team to defend the case of the soldiers of the Azad Hind government. The team included several famous lawyers, including Bhulabhai Desai, Asaf Ali, and Jawaharlal Nehru. The same year, Congress members initially supported the sailors who led the Royal Indian Navy mutiny, but they withdrew support at a critical juncture and the mutiny failed.
After Indian independence in 1947, the Indian National Congress became the dominant political party in the country. In 1952, in the first general election held after Independence, the party swept to power in the national parliament and most state legislatures. It held power nationally until 1977, when it was defeated by the Janata coalition. It returned to power in 1980 and ruled until 1989, when it was once again defeated. The party formed the government in 1991 at the head of a coalition, as well as in 2004 and 2009, when it led the United Progressive Alliance. During this period the Congress remained centre-left in its social policies while steadily shifting from a socialist to a neoliberal economic outlook. The Party's rivals at state level have been national parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM), and various regional parties, such as the Telugu Desam Party, Trinamool Congress and Aam Aadmi Party.
A post-partition successor to the party survived as the Pakistan National Congress, a party which represented the rights of religious minorities in the state. The party's support was strongest in the Bengali-speaking province of East Pakistan. After the Bangladeshi War of Independence, it became known as the Bangladeshi National Congress, but was dissolved in 1975 by the government.
Nehru/Shastri era (1947–1966)
From 1951 until his death in 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru was the paramount leader of the party. Congress gained power in landslide victories in the general elections of 1951–52, 1957, and 1962. During his tenure, Nehru implemented policies based on import substitution industrialisation, and advocated a mixed economy where the government-controlled public sector co-existed with the private sector. He believed the establishment of basic and heavy industries was fundamental to the development and modernisation of the Indian economy. The Nehru government directed investment primarily into key public sector industries—steel, iron, coal, and power—promoting their development with subsidies and protectionist policies. Nehru embraced secularism, socialistic economic practices based on state-driven industrialisation, and a non-aligned and non-confrontational foreign policy that became typical of the modern Congress Party. The policy of non-alignment during the Cold War meant Nehru received financial and technical support from both the Eastern and Western Blocs to build India's industrial base from nothing.
During his period in office, there were four known assassination attempts on Nehru. The first attempt on his life was during partition in 1947 while he was visiting the North-West Frontier Province in a car. The second was by a knife-wielding rickshaw-puller in Maharashtra in 1955. A third attempt happened in Bombay in 1956. The fourth was a failed bombing attempt on railway tracks in Maharashtra in 1961. Despite threats to his life, Nehru despised having excess security personnel around him and did not like his movements to disrupt traffic.
In 1964, Nehru died because of an aortic dissection, raising questions about the party's future. After Nehru's death in 1964, the congress party started to face internal crisis. There were differences among the top leadership of the Congress regarding the future of the party which makes lot of issues within the party. This resulted in formation of many congress named parties in Kerala Congress, Orissa Jana Congress, Bangla Congress, Utkal Congress, Bharatiya Kranti Dal, etc. Following the death of Nehru, Gulzarilal Nanda was appointed as the interim Prime Minister on May 27, 1964, pending the election of a new parliamentary leader of the Congress party who would then become Prime Minister.
K. Kamaraj became the president of the All India Congress Committee in 1963 during the last year of Nehru's life. Prior to that, he had been the chief minister of Madras state for nine years. Kamraj had also been a member of "the syndicate", a group of right wing leaders within Congress. In 1963 the Congress lost popularity following the defeat in the Indo-Chinese war of 1962. To revitalize the party, Kamraj proposed the Kamaraj Plan to Nehru that encouraged six Congress chief ministers (including himself) and six senior cabinet ministers to resign to take up party work. After Nehru's death in May 1964, Kamaraj was widely credited as the "kingmaker" in Indian politics for ensuring the victory of Lal Bahadur Shastri over Morarji Desai as the successor of Nehru. The Congress was then split into two parties : Indian National Congress (O) and Indian National Congress (R) as a left-wing/right-wing division. Indira Gandhi wanted to use a populist agenda in order to mobilize popular support for the party while Kamraj and Desai stood for a more right-wing agenda.
As prime minister, Shastri retained many members of Nehru's Council of Ministers; T. T. Krishnamachari was retained as Finance Minister of India, as was Defence Minister Yashwantrao Chavan. Shastri appointed Swaran Singh to succeed him as External Affairs Minister. Shashtri appointed Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru's daughter and former party president, Minister of Information and Broadcasting. Gulzarilal Nanda continued as the Minister of Home Affairs. As Prime Minister, Shastri continued Nehru's policy of non-alignment, but built closer relations with the Soviet Union. In the aftermath of the Sino-Indian War of 1962, and the formation of military ties between China and Pakistan, Shastri's government expanded the defence budget of India's armed forces. He also promoted the White Revolution—a national campaign to increase the production and supply of milk by creating the National Dairy Development Board. The Madras anti-Hindi agitation of 1965 occurred during Shastri's tenure.
Shastri became a national hero following victory in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. His slogan, "Jai Jawan Jai Kisan" ("Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer"), became very popular during the war. On 11 January 1966, a day after signing the Tashkent Declaration, Shastri died in Tashkent, reportedly of a heart attack; but the circumstances of his death remain mysterious. Indian National Congress (O) was led first by Kamraj and later by Morarji Desai. The "O" stands for organisation/Old Congress. Some people used to it the Original Congress.
Indira era (1966–1984)
After Shastri's death, Congress elected Indira Gandhi as leader over Morarji Desai. Once again, politician K. Kamaraj was instrumental in achieving this result. In 1967, following a poor performance in the general election, Indira Gandhi started moving towards the political left. In mid-1969, she was involved in a dispute with senior party leaders on a number of issues. The two major issues were Gandhi supporting the independent candidate, V. V. Giri, rather than the official Congress party candidate, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, for the vacant post of the President of India. The second issue was Mrs. Gandhi's abrupt nationalization of the 14 biggest banks in India, which resulted in the resignation of the finance minister, Morarji Desai. Later in the year, the Congress party president, S. Nijalingappa, expelled her from the party for indiscipline. Mrs. Gandhi as a counter-move launched her own faction of the INC. Mrs. Gandhi's faction, called Congress (R), was supported by most of the Congress MPs while the original party had the support of only 65 MPs. It was also known as Congress (R) R stood for Requisition or Ruling. It soon came to be known as the New Congress. In the All India Congress Committee, 446 of its 705 members walked over to Indira's side. This created a belief among Indians that Indira's Congress was the Real Congress (INC-R). After the separation of the two parties, there was also a dispute about the party logo. The "Old Congress" retained the party symbol of a pair of bullocks carrying a yoke while Indira's breakaway faction was given a new symbol of a cow with a suckling calf by the Election Commission as the party election symbol. The split occurred when, in 1969, a united opposition under the banner of Samyukt Vidhayak Dal, won control over several states in the Hindi Belt.
In the mid-term parliamentary elections held in 1971, the Gandhi-led Congress (R) Party won a landslide victory on a platform of progressive policies such as the elimination of poverty (Garibi Hatao). The policies of the Congress (R) Party under Gandhi before the 1971 elections included proposals to abolish the Privy Purse to former rulers of the Princely states, and the 1969 nationalisation of India's 14 largest banks.
The New Congress Party's popular support began to wane in the mid-1970s. From 1975, Gandhi's government grew increasingly more authoritarian and unrest among the opposition grew. On 12 June 1975, the High Court of Allahabad declared Indira Gandhi's election to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India's parliament, void on the grounds of electoral malpractice. However, Gandhi rejected calls to resign and announced plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. She moved to restore order by ordering the arrest of most of the opposition participating in the unrest. In response to increasing disorder and lawlessness, Gandhi's cabinet and government recommended that President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declare a State of Emergency, which he did on 25 June 1975 based on the provisions of Article 352 of the Constitution.
During the nineteen-month emergency, widespread oppression and abuse of power by Gandhi's unelected younger son and political heir Sanjay Gandhi and his close associates occurred. This period of oppression ended on 23 January 1977, when Gandhi released all political prisoners and called fresh elections for the Lok Sabha to be held in March. The Emergency officially ended on 23 March 1977. In that month's parliamentary elections, the Janata alliance of anti-Indira opposition parties won a landslide victory over Congress, winning 295 seats in the Lok Sabha against Congress' 153. Gandhi lost her seat to her Janata opponent Raj Narain. On 2 January 1978, she and her followers seceded and formed a new opposition party, popularly called Congress (I)—the "I" signifying Indira. During the next year, her new party attracted enough members of the legislature to become the official opposition. In November 1978, Gandhi regained a parliamentary seat. In January 1980, following a landslide victory for Congress (I), she was again elected prime minister. The national election commission declared Congress (I) to be the real Indian National Congress for the 1984 general election. However, the designation I was dropped only in 1996.
Early during Gandhi's new term as prime minister, her youngest son Sanjay died in an aeroplane crash in June 1980. This led her to encourage her elder son Rajiv, who was working as an airline pilot, to enter politics. Gradually, Indira Gandhi's politics and outlook grew more authoritarian and autocratic, and she became the central figure within the Congress Party. As prime minister, she became known for her political ruthlessness and unprecedented centralization of power.
Gandhi's term as prime minister also saw increasing turmoil in Punjab, with demands for Sikh autonomy by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his militant followers. In 1983, they headquartered themselves in the Golden Temple in Amritsar and started accumulating weapons. In June 1984, after several futile negotiations, Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to enter the Golden Temple to establish control over the complex and remove Bhindranwale and his armed followers. This event is known as Operation Blue Star. On 31 October 1984, two of Gandhi's bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, shot her with their service weapons in the garden of the prime minister's residence in response to her authorisation of Operation Blue Star. Gandhi was due to be interviewed by British actor Peter Ustinov, who was filming a documentary for Irish television. Her assassination prompted the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, during which more than 3,000 people were killed.
Rajiv Gandhi and Rao era (1984–1998)
In 1984, Indira Gandhi's son Rajiv Gandhi became nominal head of Congress, and went on to become prime minister upon her assassination. In December, he led Congress to a landslide victory, where it secured 401 seats in the legislature. His administration took measures to reform the government bureaucracy and liberalise the country's economy. Rajiv Gandhi's attempts to discourage separatist movements in Punjab and Kashmir backfired. After his government became embroiled in several financial scandals, his leadership became increasingly ineffectual. Gandhi was regarded as a non-abrasive person who consulted other party members and refrained from hasty decisions. The Bofors scandal damaged his reputation as an honest politician, but he was posthumously cleared of bribery allegations in 2004. On 21 May 1991, Gandhi was killed by a bomb concealed in a basket of flowers carried by a woman associated with the Tamil Tigers. He was campaigning in Tamil Nadu for upcoming parliamentary elections. In 1998, an Indian court convicted 26 people in the conspiracy to assassinate Gandhi. The conspirators, who consisted of Tamil militants from Sri Lanka and their Indian allies, had sought revenge against Gandhi because the Indian troops he sent to Sri Lanka in 1987 to help enforce a peace accord there had fought with Tamil Militant guerrillas.
Rajiv Gandhi was succeeded as party leader by P. V. Narasimha Rao, who was elected prime minister in June 1991. His rise to the prime ministership was politically significant because he was the first holder of the office from South India. His administration oversaw major economic change and experienced several home incidents that affected India's national security. Rao, who held the Industries portfolio, was personally responsible for the dismantling of the Licence Raj, which came under the purview of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. He is often called the "father of Indian economic reforms".
Future prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh continued the economic reform policies begun by Rao's government. Rao accelerated the dismantling of the Licence Raj, reversing the socialist policies of previous governments. He employed Manmohan Singh as his finance minister to begin a historic economic change. With Rao's mandate, Singh launched India's globalisation reforms that involved implementing International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies to prevent India's impending economic collapse. Rao was also referred to as Chanakya for his ability to push tough economic and political legislation through the parliament while he headed a minority government.
By 1996, the party's image was suffering from allegations of corruption, and in elections that year, Congress was reduced to 140 seats, its lowest number in the Lok Sabha to that point. Rao later resigned as prime minister and, in September, as party president. He was succeeded as president by Sitaram Kesri, the party's first non-Brahmin leader. During the tenure of both Rao and Kesri, the two leaders conducted internal elections to the Congress working committees and their own posts as party presidents.
The 1998 general election saw Congress win 141 seats in the Lok Sabha, its lowest tally until then. To boost its popularity and improve its performance in the forthcoming election, Congress leaders urged Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi's widow, to assume leadership of the party. She had previously declined offers to become actively involved in party affairs and had stayed away from politics. After her election as party leader, a section of the party that objected to the choice because of her Italian ethnicity broke away and formed the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), led by Sharad Pawar.
Sonia Gandhi struggled to revive the party in her early years as its president; she was under continuous scrutiny for her foreign birth and lack of political acumen. In the snap elections called by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in 1999, Congress' tally further plummeted to just 114 seats. Although the leadership structure was unaltered as the party campaigned strongly in the assembly elections that followed, Gandhi began to make such strategic changes as abandoning the party's 1998 Pachmarhi resolution of ekla chalo, or "go it alone" policy, and formed alliances with other like-minded parties. In the intervening years, the party was successful at various legislative assembly elections; at one point, Congress ruled 15 states. For the 2004 general election, Congress forged alliances with regional parties including the NCP and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. The party's campaign emphasised social inclusion and the welfare of the common masses—an ideology that Gandhi herself endorsed for Congress during her presidency—with slogans such as Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ke saath ("Congress hand in hand with the common man"), contrasting with the NDA's "India Shining" campaign. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won 222 seats in the new parliament, defeating the NDA by a substantial margin. With the subsequent support of the communist front, Congress won a majority and formed a new government. Despite massive support from within the party, Gandhi declined the post of prime minister, choosing to appoint Manmohan Singh instead. She remained as party president and headed the National Advisory Council (NAC).
During its first term in office, the UPA government passed several social reform bills. These included an employment guarantee bill, the Right to Information Act, and a right to education act. The NAC, as well as the Left Front that supported the government from the outside, were widely seen as being the driving force behind such legislation. The Left Front withdrew its support of the government over disagreements about the U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement. Despite the effective loss of 62 seats in parliament, the government survived the trust vote that followed. In the Lok Sabha elections held soon after, Congress won 207 seats, the highest tally of any party since 1991. The UPA as a whole won 262, enabling it to form a government for the second time. The social welfare policies of the first UPA government, and the perceived divisiveness of the BJP, are broadly credited with the victory.
By the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party had lost much of its popular support, mainly because of several years of poor economic conditions in the country, and growing discontent over a series of corruption allegations involving government officials, including the 2G spectrum case and the Indian coal allocation scam. Congress won only 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, compared to the 336 of the BJP and its allies The UPA suffered heavy defeat, which was its worst-ever performance in a national election with its vote share dipping below 20% for the first time. Narendra Modi succeeded Singh as Prime Minister as the head of the National Democratic Alliance. Sonia Gandhi retired as party president in December 2017, having served for a record nineteen years. She was succeeded by her son Rahul Gandhi, who was elected unopposed in the 2017 Indian National Congress presidential election.
Rahul Gandhi resigned from his post after the 2019 Indian general election, due to the party's dismal performance. The INC had managed to win only 52 seats, hence failing to provide an official Leader of the Opposition for a second consecutive term. Following Gandhi's resignation, party leaders began deliberations for a suitable candidate to replace him. The Congress Working Committee met on 10 August to make a final decision on the matter and passed a resolution asking Sonia Gandhi to take over as interim president until a consensus candidate could be picked.
General election results
|Year||Legislature||Party leader||Seats won||Change in seats||Percentage of votes||Vote swing||Outcome||Ref(s)|
|1934||5th Central Legislative Assembly||Bhulabhai Desai||
42 / 147
|1945||6th Central Legislative Assembly||Sarat Chandra Bose||
59 / 102
|17||N/A||N/A||Interim Government of India (1946–1947)|||
|1951||1st Lok Sabha||Jawaharlal Nehru||
364 / 489
|1957||2nd Lok Sabha||
371 / 494
|1962||3rd Lok Sabha||
361 / 494
|1967||4th Lok Sabha||Indira Gandhi||
283 / 520
|1971||5th Lok Sabha||
352 / 518
|1977||6th Lok Sabha||
153 / 542
|1980||7th Lok Sabha||
351 / 542
|1984||8th Lok Sabha||Rajiv Gandhi||
415 / 533
|1989||9th Lok Sabha||
197 / 545
|1991||10th Lok Sabha||P. V. Narasimha Rao||
244 / 545
|1996||11th Lok Sabha||
140 / 545
|104||28.80%||7.46%||Opposition, later outside support for UF|||
|1998||12th Lok Sabha||Sitaram Kesri||
141 / 545
|1999||13th Lok Sabha||Sonia Gandhi||
114 / 545
|2004||14th Lok Sabha||
145 / 543
|2009||15th Lok Sabha||
206 / 543
|2014||16th Lok Sabha||Rahul Gandhi||
44 / 543
|2019||17th Lok Sabha||
52 / 543
The history of the economic policy of Congress-led governments can be divided into two periods. The first period lasted from independence, in 1947, to 1991 and put great emphasis on the public sector. The second period began with economic liberalization in 1991. At present, Congress endorses a mixed economy in which the private sector and the state both direct the economy, which has characteristics of both market and planned economies. Congress advocates import substitution industrialisation—the replacement of foreign imports with domestic products. Congress believes the Indian economy should be liberalised to increase the pace of development.
At the beginning of the first period, the Congress prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru implemented policies based on import substitution industrialization and advocated a mixed economy where the government-controlled public sector would co-exist with the private sector. He believed that the establishment of basic and heavy industry was fundamental to the development and modernisation of the Indian economy. The government, therefore, directed investment primarily into key public-sector industries—steel, iron, coal, and power—promoting their development with subsidies and protectionist policies. This period was called the Licence Raj, or Permit Raj, which was the elaborate system of licences, regulations, and accompanying red tape that were required to set up and run businesses in India between 1947 and 1990. The Licence Raj was a result of Nehru and his successors' desire to have a planned economy where all aspects of the economy were controlled by the state, and licences were given to a select few. Up to 80 government agencies had to be satisfied before private companies could produce something; and, if the licence were granted, the government would regulate production. The licence raj system continued under Indira Gandhi. In addition, many key sectors such as banking, steel coal, and oil were nationalized. Under Rajiv Gandhi, the trade regime were liberalised with reduction in duties on several import items and incentives to promote exports. Tax rates were reduced and curbs on company assests loosened.
In 1991, the new Congress-party government, led by P. V. Narasimha Rao, initiated reforms to avert the impending 1991 economic crisis. The reforms progressed furthest in opening up areas to foreign investment, reforming capital markets, deregulating domestic business, and reforming the trade regime. The goals of Rao's government were to reduce the fiscal deficit, privatize the public sector, and increase investment in infrastructure. Trade reforms and changes in the regulation of foreign direct investment were introduced in order to open India to foreign trade while stabilising external loans. Rao chose Manmohan Singh for the job. Singh, an acclaimed economist and former chairman of the Reserve Bank, played a central role in implementing these reforms.
In 2004, Singh became prime minister of the Congress-led UPA government. Singh remained prime minister after the UPA won the 2009 general elections. The UPA government introduced policies aimed at reforming the banking and financial sectors, as well as public sector companies. It also introduced policies aimed at relieving farmers of their debt. In 2005, Singh government introduced the value added tax, replacing the sales tax. India was able to resist the worst effects of the global economic crisis of 2008. Singh's government continued the Golden Quadrilateral, the Indian highway modernisation program that was initiated by Vajpayee's government. Then Finance Minister of India Pranab Mukherjee implemented many tax reforms, notably scrapping the Fringe Benefits Tax and the Commodities Transaction Tax. He implemented the Goods and Services Tax (GST) during his tenure. His reforms were well received by major corporate executives and economists. The introduction of retrospective taxation, however, has been criticised by some economists. Mukherjee expanded funding for several social sector schemes including the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). He also supported budget increases for improving literacy and health care. He expanded infrastructure programmes such as the National Highway Development Programme. Electricity coverage was also expanded during his tenure. Mukherjee also reaffirmed his commitment to the principle of fiscal prudence as some economists expressed concern about the rising fiscal deficits during his tenure, the highest since 1991. Mukherjee declared the expansion in government spending was only temporary.
National defense and home affairs
Since Independence India was in pursuit of nuclear capabilities. Nehru felt that the nuclear energy can take the country forward and help achieving its developmental goals. Consequently, Nehru began to seek assistance from the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA. In 1958 the government of India with the help of Homi J. Bhabha adopted three-phase power production plan and the Nuclear Research Institute was established in 1954. Indira Gandhi witnessed continuous nuclear testing by China from 1964 onwards, thus the existential threat to India. Aa a result, India conducted a nuclear test in the Pokhran desert in Rajasthan on May 18, 1974 and named it Operation Smiling Buddha. India asserted that the test was for "peaceful purposes". However, the country faced criticism and the United States and Canada suspended all support to India. In spite of intense international criticism, the nuclear test was popular domestically causing an immediate revival of Indira Gandhi's popularity, which had flagged considerably from its heights after the 1971 war. Subsequently, the transition to statehood for Northeast India was successfully overseen by her administration. In 1972, Indira Gandhi granted statehood to Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura, while the North-East Frontier Agency was declared a union territory and renamed Arunachal Pradesh. This was followed by the annexation of Sikkim in 1975.
Manmohan Singh's administration initiated a massive reconstruction effort in Kashmir to stabilise the region and strengthened anti-terrorism laws with amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). After a period of initial success, insurgent infiltration and terrorism in Kashmir has increased since 2009. However, the Singh administration was successful in reducing terrorism in Northeast India. Under the background of the Punjab insurgency, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) was passed. The aim of the law is mainly directed towards eliminating the infiltrators from Pakistan. The law gave wide powers to law enforcement agencies for dealing with national terrorist and 'socially disruptive activities. The police were not obliged to produce a detainee before a judicial magistrate within 24 hours. The law, however, is widely criticised by human rights organisations. After the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, the UPA government created the National Investigation Agency (NIA), in response to the need for a central agency to combat terrorism.
The Unique Identification Authority of India was established in February 2009 to implement the proposed Multipurpose National Identity Card, with the objective of increasing national security. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (Nirbhaya Act) formulated to deal with sexual offences against women. The second term of the UPA government was fraught with allegations of corruption against it, hence establishing the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 (The Lokpal Act). The Act extends to the whole of India and is applicable to public servants within and outside India.
Education and healthcare
The Congress government under Nehru oversaw the establishment of many institutions of higher learning, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institutes of Management and the National Institutes of Technology. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) was established in 1961 as a literary, scientific and charitable Society under the Societies' Registration Act. Jawahar Lal Nehru outlined a commitment in his five-year plans to guarantee free and compulsory primary education to all of India's children. Rajiv Gandhi's premiership pioneered public information infrastructure and innovation in India. His government allowed the import of fully assembled motherboards, which led to the price of computers being reduced. The concept of having Navodaya Vidyalaya in every district of India was born as a part of National Policy on Education (NPE).
In 2005, The Congress-led government started the National Rural Health Mission, which employed about 500,000 community health workers. It was praised by economist Jeffrey Sachs. In 2006, it implemented a proposal to reserve 27% of seats in the All India Institute of Medical Studies (AIIMS), the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), and other central higher education institutions, for Other Backward Classes, which led to the 2006 Indian anti-reservation protests. The Singh government also continued the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme, which includes the introduction and improvement of mid-day school meals and the opening of new schools throughout India, especially in rural areas, to fight illiteracy. During Manmohan Singh's prime-ministership, eight Institutes of Technology were opened in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Orissa, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh.
Throughout much of the Cold War period, Congress supported a foreign policy of nonalignment that called for India to form ties with both the Western and Eastern Blocs, but to avoid formal alliances with either. US support for Pakistan led the party to endorse a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union in 1971. Congress has continued the foreign policy started by P. V. Narasimha Rao. This includes the peace process with Pakistan, and the exchange of high-level visits by leaders from both countries. The UPA government has tried to end the border dispute with the People's Republic of China through negotiations.Relations with Afghanistan have also been a concern for Congress. During Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to New Delhi in August 2008, Manmohan Singh increased the aid package to Afghanistan for the development of schools, health clinics, infrastructure, and defence. India is now one of the single largest aid donors to Afghanistan. To nourish political, security, cultural and economical connections with central Asian countries, it launched Connect Central Asia policy in 2012. This policy is aimed at strengthing and expanding India's relations with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Look East policy was initiated in 1992 by Narsimha Rao to cultivate extensive economic and strategic relations with the nations of Southeast Asia to bolster its standing as a regional power and a counterweight to the strategic influence of the People's Republic of China. Subsequently, in 1992 Rao decided to bring into open India's relations with Israel, which had been kept covertly active for a few years during his tenure as a Foreign Minister, and permitted Israel to open an embassy in New Delhi. Rao decided to maintain a distance from the Dalai Lama in order to avoid aggravating Beijing's suspicions and concerns, and made successful overtures to Tehran.
Even though the Congress foreign policy doctrine stands for maintaining friendly relations with all the countries of the world, it has always exhibited a special bias towards the Afro-Asian nations. It played active role in forming Group of 77 (1964, Group of 15 (1990), Indian Ocean Rim Association, and SAARC. Indira Gandhi firmly tied Indian anti-imperialist interests in Africa to those of the Soviet Union. She openly and enthusiastically supported liberation struggles in Africa. In April 2006, New Delhi hosted an India–Africa summit attended by the leaders of 15 African states.
The party opposes arms race and advocates disarmament, both conventional and nuclear. When in power between 2004 and 2014, Congress worked on India's relationship with the United States. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the US in July 2005 to negotiate an India–United States Civil Nuclear Agreement. US president George W. Bush visited India in March 2006; during this visit, a nuclear agreement that would give India access to nuclear fuel and technology in exchange for the IAEA inspection of its civil nuclear reactors was proposed. Over two years of negotiations, followed by approval from the IAEA, the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the United States Congress, the agreement was signed on 10 October 2008. However, it has not signed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) due to their discrimninatory and hagemonistic nature.
Congress' policy has been to cultivate friendly relations with Japan as well as European Union countries including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Diplomatic relations with Iran have continued, and negotiations over the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline have taken place. Congress' policy has also been to improve relations with other developing countries, particularly Brazil and South Africa.
The Congress party emphasizes social equality, freedom, secularism, and equal opportunity. Its political position is generally considered to be on the centre. Historically, the party has represented farmers, laborers, and religious minorities as it has opposed unregulated business and finance and favored progressive income taxes. In September 2005, UPA government passed Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The MGNREGA was initiated with the objective of "enhancing livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year, to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work." Another aim of MGNREGA is to create durable assets (such as roads, canals, ponds and wells).
The Congress has position itself as both pro-Hindu and protector of the minorities. The party supports Mahatma Gandhi's doctrine of Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava collectively termed by its party members as secularism. Current chief minister of Punjab and senior Congress member Amarinder Singh said that, "India belongs to all religions, which is its strength, and the Congress would not allow anyone to destroy its cherished secular values.” On November 9, 1989 Rajiv Gandhi had allowed “shilanyas” (foundation stone-laying ceremony) adjacent to the then disputed Ram Janmabhoomi site. Subsequently, his government faced heavy criticism over a passing The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986, which nullified the Supreme Court's judgment in the Shah Bano case. The 1984 violence made the Congress party lose a moral argument over secularism. The BJP questioned the Congress party's moral authority in questioning it about the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Congress has distanced itself from Hindutva ideology, though the party has softened the stance after defeat in 2014 and 2019 general elections.
After independence the Congress advocated the idea of establishing Hindi as the sole national language of India. Nehru led the faction of the Congress party which promoted Hindi as the lingua franca of the Indian nation. However, the non-Hindi speaking Indian states especially Tamil Nadu opposed it, which wanted the continued use of English language. Lal Bahadur Shastri's tenure witnessed several protests, and riots including the Madras anti-Hindi agitation of 1965. Shashtri's appealed to agitators to withdraw the movement and assured that the English would continue to be used as the official language as long as the non-Hindi speaking states wanted. In 2014, when the NDA government tried to promote Hindi on social media, the Congress party advised caution in order to avoid backlash from non-Hindi states.
The Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which, among other things, criminalises homosexuality, erstwhile Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, "Sexuality is a matter of personal freedom and should be left to individuals". Leading party figure and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram stated that the "Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India judgement must be quickly reversed". On 18 December 2015, Shashi Tharoor leading member of the party introduced a private member's bill to replace Section 377 in the Indian Penal Code and decriminalize consensual same-sex relations. The bill was defeated in the first reading. In March 2016, Tharoor again reintroduce the private member's bill to decriminalize homosexuality but was voted down for the second time.
Current structure and composition
At present, the president and the All India Congress Committee (AICC) are elected by delegates from state and district parties at an annual national conference; in every Indian state and union territory—or pradesh—there is a Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC), which is the state-level unit of the party responsible for directing political campaigns at local and state levels, and assisting the campaigns for parliamentary constituencies. Each PCC has a working committee of twenty members, most of whom are appointed by the party president, the leader of the state party, who is chosen by the national president. Those elected as members of the states' legislative assemblies form the Congress Legislature Parties in the various state assemblies; their chairperson is usually the party's nominee for Chief Ministership. The party is also organised into various committees, and sections; it publishes a daily newspaper, the National Herald. Despite being a party with a structure, Congress under Indira Gandhi did not hold any organizational elections after 1972. Nonetheless in 2004, when the Congress was voted back into power, Manmohan Singh became the first Prime Minister not to be the president of the party since establishment of the practice of the president holding both positions.
The AICC is composed of delegates sent from the PCCs. The delegates elect Congress committees, including the Congress Working Committee, consisting of senior party leaders and office-bearers. The AICC takes all-important executive and political decisions. Since Indira Gandhi formed Congress (I) in 1978, the President of the Indian National Congress has effectively been the party's national leader, head of the organisation, head of the Working Committee and all chief Congress committees, chief spokesman, and Congress' choice for Prime Minister of India. Constitutionally, the president is elected by the PCCs and members of the AICC; however, this procedure has often been bypassed by the Working Committee, which has elected its own candidate.
The Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) consists of elected MPs in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. There is also a Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader in each state. The CLP consists of all Congress Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in each state. In cases of states where the Congress is single-handedly ruling the government, the CLP leader is the Chief Minister. Other directly affiliated groups include:
- National Students' Union of India (NSUI), the students' wing of the Congress.
- Indian Youth Congress, the party's youth wing.
- Indian National Trade Union Congress, the labour union.
- All India Mahila Congress, its women's division.
- Congress Seva Dal, its voluntary organisation.
- All India Congress Minority Department, also referred as Minority Congress is the minority wing of the Congress party. It is represented by the Pradesh Congress Minority Department in all the states of India.
As of 2021[update], the election symbol of Congress, as approved by the Election Commission of India, is an image of a right hand with its palm facing front and its fingers pressed together; this is usually shown in the centre of a tricolor flag. The hand symbol was first used by Indira Gandhi when she split from the Congress (R) faction following the 1977 elections and created the New Congress (I). The hand is symbolic of strength, energy and unity.
The party under the stewardship of Nehru had the symbol ‘Pair of bullocks carrying a yoke’ which struck a chord with masses who were predominantly farmers. In 1969, due to internal conflicts within the Congress party, Indira Gandhi decided to break out and form a party of her own, with the majority of the Congress party members in support of her in the new party which was named Congress(R). The symbol of Indira's Congress (R) or Congress (Requisitionists) during the 1971–1977 period was a cow with a suckling calf. After losing the support of 76 out of the party's 153 members in the Lok Sabha, Indira's new political outfit the Congress (I) or Congress (Indira) evolved and she opted for the hand (open palm) symbol.
Dynasticism is fairly common in many political parties in India, including the Congress party. Six members of the Nehru–Gandhi family have been presidents of the party. The party started being controlled by Indira Gandhi's family during the emergency with her younger son, Sanjay taking on a prominent role. This was characterized by servility and sycophancy towards the family which later led to hereditary succession of Rajiv Gandhi as successor after Indira Gandhi's assassination, as well as the party's selection of Sonia Gandhi as Rajiv's successor after his assassination, which she turned down. Since the formation of Congress (I) by Indira Gandhi in 1978, the party president has been from her family except for the period between 1991 and 1998. In the last three elections to the Lok Sabha combined, 37% of Congress party MPs had family members precede them in politics.
Presence in states and UTs
From the first general election in 1952 when Jawaharlal Nehru led it to a landslide victory (it won 364 of the 401 seats), the Congress won in the majority of the following state elections and paved the way for a Nehruvian era of single-party dominance. The party during the post-independence era has governed most of the States and union territories of India.
As of May 2021[update], the INC is in power in the states of Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Rajasthan, where the party has the majority. In Maharashtra, it shares power as a junior ally with alliance partners Nationalist Congress Party, Shiv Sena and other smaller regional parties under the multi-party Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition. In Jharkhand, it shares power as a junior ally with Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. In Tamil Nadu it shares power as a junior ally with the DMK, CPI, CPI(M), VCK under the coalition Secular Progressive Alliance or SPA. The Congress has previously been the sole party in power in Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Haryana, Uttarakhand and in the Union Territory of Puducherry. The Congress has never been a part of the government in Telangana, however, the Congress has been in the power in Andhra Pradesh before the state was bifurcated. Congress has enjoyed overwhelming electoral majority for over decades in Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Kerala, Maharashtra and Punjab. It has a regional political alliance in Tamil Nadu named the Secular Progressive Alliance, and in Kerala, it is the United Democratic Front.
|S.No||State/UT||UPA Govt Since||Chief Minister||Party/alliance partner||Seats in Assembly||Last election|
|1||Punjab||16 March 2017||Amarinder Singh||INC||80||16 March 2017||None||80/117||4 February 2017|
|2||Chhattisgarh||17 December 2018||Bhupesh Baghel||INC||70||17 December 2018||None||70/90||11 December 2018|
|3||Rajasthan||17 December 2018||Ashok Gehlot||INC||104||17 December 2018||RLD (1)||None||12||117/200||11 December 2018|
|4||Maharashtra||28 November 2019||Uddhav Thackeray||SS||57||28 November 2019||NCP (53)||INC (44)||BVA (3)||SP (2), PJP (2), SWP (1), PWPI (1)||6||169/288||21 October 2019|
|5||Jharkhand||28 December 2019||Hemant Soren||JMM||29||28 December 2019||INC (18)||RJD (1)||NCP (1)||CPI(ML)L (1)||None||50/81||23 December 2019|
|6||Tamil Nadu||May 7, 2021||M.K Stalin||DMK||133||May 7, 2021||INC (18)||VCK (4)||CPI (2)||CPI (M) (2)||None||159/234||6 April 2021|
List of prime ministers
The Congress has governed a majority of the period of independence India (for 55 years), whereby Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are the country's longest-serving prime ministers. The first general election the Congress contested after the Indian independence was in 1951–52 general elections, in which it won 364 of the 489 seats and 45% of the total votes. The Indian National Congress became the largest party in the Lok Sabha for next five consecutive general elections.
Gulzarilal Nanda took office in 1966 following the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri for 13 days as the acting Prime Minister of India. His earlier 13-day stint as the second Prime Minister of India followed the death of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964. Indira Gandhi, also the first and so far the only woman Prime Minister of India, served the second-longest term as a prime minister.Rajiv Gandhi served from 1984 to 1989. He took office on the day of the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 after the Sikh riots and at age 40 was the youngest PM of India. Known for economic reforms that were brought under his tenure, PV Narasimha Rao served the 10th prime minister of India. He was also the first PM to come from southern India. The Congress party and its allies achieved a majority in the Lok Sabha in 2004 and 2009 general elections. Manmohan Singh served two complete terms as the Prime Minister and headed United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments two times. Though party suffered heavy defeat in general elections held in 2014 and 2019. As of June 2021, there 34 members of the party in Raja Sabha (upper house of the parliament).
|No.||Prime ministers||Portrait||Term in office||Lok Sabha||Constituency|
|1||Jawaharlal Nehru||15 August 1947||27 May 1964||16 years, 286 days||Constituent Assembly|
|Acting||Gulzarilal Nanda||27 May 1964||11 January 1966||13 days||Sabarkantha|
|2||Lal Bahadur Shastri||1 year, 216 days||Allahabad|
|Acting||Gulzarilal Nanda||11 January 1966||24 January 1966||13 days||Sabarkantha|
|3||Indira Gandhi||24 January 1966||24 March 1977||15 years, 350 days||Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh|
|14 January 1980||31 October 1984||7th||Medak|
|4||Rajiv Gandhi||31 October 1984||2 December 1989||5 years, 32 days||Amethi|
|5||P. V. Narasimha Rao||21 June 1991||16 May 1996||4 years, 330 days||10th||Nandyal|
|6||Manmohan Singh||22 May 2004||26 May 2014||10 years, 4 days||14th||Rajya Sabha MP from Assam|
- Statewise election history of the Indian National Congress
- Congress Working Committee
- All India Congress Committee
- Pradesh Congress Committee
- List of presidents of the Indian National Congress
- List of Indian National Congress breakaway parties
- Nehru–Gandhi family
- List of political parties in India
- List of chief ministers from the Indian National Congress
- Politics of India
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- Indian National Congress: A Select Bibliography, by Manikrao Hodlya Gavit, Attar Chand. Published by U.D.H. Pub. House, 1989. ISBN 81-85044-05-8.
- The Story of Congress PilgrFile: 1885–1985, by A. Moin Zaidi, Indian National Congress. Published by Indian Institute of Applied Political Research, 1990. ISBN 81-85355-46-0. (7 vols)
- Indian National Congress in England, by Harish P. Kaushik. Published by Friends Publications, 1991.
- Women in Indian National Congress, 1921–1931, by Rajan Mahan. Published by Rawat Publications, 1999.
- History of Indian National Congress, 1885–2002, by Deep Chand Bandhu. Published by Kalpaz Publications, 2003. ISBN 81-7835-090-4.
- Bipan Chandra, Amales Tripathi, Barun De. Freedom Struggle. India: National Book Struggle. ISBN 978-81-237-0249-0.
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